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Paid family, medical leave task force memorials pass Senate and House committees

  Legislators celebrated tremendous victories after both Senate Memorial 1 and House Memorial 3 passed in the memorials’ respective committees, which makes New Mexico one step closer to the potential creation of a paid family and medical leave task force. These memorials, which will now move forward in the legislative process, are an effort to support families in the state and help deal with the worker shortage crisis. If one of the memorials passes to become law, $160,000 would fund a diverse task force that would introduce a paid family and medical leave bill in next year’s legislature.

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Vigil, rally held to commemorate community member killed by APD

  On Saturday, Feb. 5, a rally and vigil brought together the family of Valente Acosta-Bustillos as well as community members to commemorate his legacy. A descanso — cross — was placed in front of his house where he was fatally shot by Albuquerque Police Department officer Edgar Sandoval in March 2020. This event allowed for not only a time and place to grieve but also highlighted ongoing issues of police brutality. The gathering was organized by the family of Acosta-Bustillos and community activists involved with the Albuquerque branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It served as both a time for family members to talk about their memories of him and as a call for the arrest and charging of officers Sandoval and Joseph Bush.


Community member dispels stigmas about unhoused individuals

  From being formerly unhoused himself, David McKibben has seen the worst of what Albuquerque has to offer and wants to take an active position in changing the inhumane treatment of the unhoused community. With his own plans for making the city better, he encourages others to dispel the negative and untruthful stigmas around unhoused communities. McKibben came to Albuquerque in 2012 hoping to find a job within the first two weeks of being here, but fell down into a slump when that didn’t happen. In addition to that, his former drug use further intensified his situation, something many other unhoused community members struggle with as well.

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Minimum wage increase lightens financial burdens on college students

  Since New Mexico increased its minimum wage from $10.50 to $11.50 with the start of the new year, many college students have felt some weight lift off of their shoulders as they attempt to navigate the financial woes of being a college student in 2022. For Tallulah Begaye, an intercultural communications major at the University of New Mexico, the dollar increase could create positive changes in her daily life. “I’m very dependent on my check. My parents and I have a deal: my tribe’s scholarship pays for a half, my parents pay for a fourth and I pay for a fourth (of my tuition). Then I also pay for my food and anything that I want that’s not for school,” Begaye said.

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Death of UNM Director of Bands Eric Rombach-Kendall leaves profound impact, legacy

  The University of New Mexico suffered a great loss with the death of professor and Director of Bands Eric Rombach-Kendall on Monday, Jan. 24. Survived by his wife Julie and children Michael and Rebecca, Rombach-Kendall is remembered not only for his musical genius but also for his heartfelt impact on the lives of those around him. Rombach-Kendall served as director of bands at UNM for nearly 30 years since 1993. Previously, he was a conductor at Boston University and Carleton College, and he taught in the Washington State public school system for six years. Rombach-Kendall was recognized nationally when he served as the president of the College Band Directors National Association from 2011 to 2013.

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Grad union rallies for negotiations with congresswoman's support

  In a union fight that’s been ongoing for over a year, the United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico urged the University to start negotiations with them at the rally they held on campus Wednesday, Jan. 26. Calling on UNM to improve pay, working conditions and more, the grad union notably had the support of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury at the rally, though she wasn’t able to physically attend. The rally came after the Union received official certification, consisting of a finalized signed card count and ruling from the Public Employee Labor Relations Board chair Mark Meyers, on Jan. 4, 2022, according to a press release, after over a year of fighting with UNM administration over graduate workers’ right to unionize.

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UNM requires 3-ply medical-grade masks indoors

  The University of New Mexico is requiring a three-ply or better medical-grade mask when indoors, effective Jan. 17. This decision, which updated the previous mask policy that allowed cloth masks, was made in response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and the increased infectiousness of the omicron variant. According to UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair, Student Affairs will be distributing proper masks across campus for students struggling to source proper masks or otherwise do not currently have appropriate masks. Masks will be distributed in high-traffic classroom buildings on campus, as well as in the Student Union Building and Johnson Gym.


Locals tentatively support ABQ Community Safety department

  The new Albuquerque Community Safety Department began responding to emergency calls last September and acts as a non-law enforcement dispatch team that handles issues within the community, like mental health crises, that the police may not be trained to handle. After just over four months of operation, multiple community members are tentatively hopeful that this department will bring solutions to the city. Since ACS was created, the department has responded to over 1,500 calls, including 911 calls that get redirected to them and the 311 hotline that connects to them directly. “(There) is a huge need for us … (with) the amount of calls that go through that are not appropriate for police. 


UNM LEAF meets with attorney general's office on divestment complaint

  Investigation on the legality of the University of New Mexico Foundation’s indirect investment in fossil fuel companies is ongoing, and the UNM Leaders for Environmental Action and Foresight aren’t giving up. After an initial intake meeting with the office of the attorney general on Dec. 17, 2021, where they reviewed the legal arguments and historical background of their complaint filed last October, the office is still in the process of reviewing all the information. UNMF, which funds scholarships and campus initiatives at the University, has an estimated $32.5 million of its Consolidated Investment Fund, the investment pool for endowment assets of the University and UNMF, indirectly invested into fossil fuel stock, according to Gabe Gomez, managing director of UNMF marketing and communication. 

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UNM COVID-19 booster requirement deadline nears

  Eligible University of New Mexico students, staff and faculty must receive and upload documentation of having received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot by Jan. 17, the day before the spring 2022 semester is set to start in person. Individuals are currently considered eligible by the University if they have received either the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine on or before June 15, 2021 or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or before Oct. 15, 2021 because of time requirements between vaccination doses. Those vaccinated after these dates have up to four weeks to upload proof following the Jan. 17 deadline.

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SAC, ASUNM kickstart spring semester with student events

  With the spring semester beginning Jan. 18, the University of New Mexico’s Student Activities Center and Associated Students of the University of New Mexico have organized several events in the first two weeks to get students back into the groove after break. SAC has organized two Welcome Back Days, scheduled for Jan. 19 and 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Union Building atrium. There, various departments and organizations around campus will be able to table and showcase their organizations, and prospective students can find groups that fit their interests. The first Welcome Back Day will be focused on showcasing different departments at the University as well as Greek organizations, and the following week will highlight student organizations.

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First time in 2 years guests allowed at UNM commencements

  For the first time in two years, guests will be allowed at the University of New Mexico commencement ceremonies at The Pit on Dec. 16 and 17. Masks and vaccinations will be required for a majority of attendees. Graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 are invited to celebrate after past commencements during the COVID-19 pandemic were either virtual or without guests due to the nature of the pandemic. At the upcoming ceremonies, anyone over 12 years old must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours, and anyone over 2 years old must wear a mask.

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Benefits to joining a union after graduation

  As many students at the University of New Mexico graduate and enter their respective career fields, the option to unionize will be a question that confronts many of them. Research has shown that workers that are part of a union have better working conditions overall. In the United States, 1 in 9 workers are in a union, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This, therefore, allows their collective voices to speak up for fair working conditions, according to the Institute’s research. Additional research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that strong unions lessen the wage gap from the highest earner to the lowest earner, and union workers tend to earn 13.2% more than non-union workers.

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New Mexico’s booming film industry gives grads employment opportunities

  Filmmaking in New Mexico is on the rise, much to the luck of recent college film graduates. With record peaks in funding, direct spending supported by credits and deductibles that are projected to continue growing, University of New Mexico film graduates are set up to find lucrative work in the film industry. “This is where the next Hollywood is going to be and I want to be there while it’s being built. It’s perfect for someone like me who’s looking for work in the film industry and an easy in, and New Mexico is looking for a giant crop of young people to work in the film industry so they can boost the economy,” UNM film student Michael Madrigal said.

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Grad union protests UNM’s unionization appeal through work-in

  Graduate student workers lined the halls and piled into waiting rooms at the University of New Mexico as they staged their 12-hour work-in at Scholes Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 7. The students were physically showing the University how much work they do in a day to protest the University’s decision to appeal the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board’s ruling that granted them the right to unionize. “Today at this work-in, graduate workers of all kinds … are gathered together to do what the University has claimed for the past year we don't do: work.

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ABQ finds widespread heat discrepancies between communities

  The city of Albuquerque released its heat map findings from the report in late November, compiled by Climate Adaptation Planning Analytics Strategies, a contractor of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The study looked at heat impacts on human health through temperature and humidity data points collected on July 9, 2021. Kelsey Rader, the city of Albuquerque's sustainability officer, said this report was an opportunity to evaluate how existing infrastructure was supporting active and public transportation users. The study produced results showing a temperature difference of nearly 17 F from the hottest to coolest parts of the city. Rader said this is a call to action to manage this discrepancy through tree plantings, which has a dedicated budget with the city.

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Custodial union protests against poverty wages, union-busting

  On Friday, Dec. 3, custodial workers at the University of New Mexico protested for the University to pay them a living wage. A coalition of other unions in the state were present in solidarity, including the graduate student workers’ union, who showed up to also protest the University’s union-busting attempts. The protest was held hours before the Hanging of the Greens, a holiday tradition at UNM in which the community celebrates the holiday season with a variety of festive activities. According to a Dec. 3 press release from the custodians’ union, Communication Workers of America Local 7076, they specifically chose this time to hold their protest to contrast the festivities with the dire treatment of custodial workers. 


Educators across New Mexico denounce oil and gas campaigns

  Over 200 educators in New Mexico, from early childhood teachers to college professors, signed a letter calling on the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association to stop using disingenuous public campaigns to promote more oil and gas development. These educators want the expansion of revenue sources and lessened dependence on the fossil fuel industry in the state. “It has been extremely disappointing to watch the oil and gas industry and its allies use educators and students as props in campaigns against progress on climate and clean energy policies,” read a Nov. 30 press release sent by lobbying and public relations communications specialist Charles Goodmacher.

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UNM seeks to appeal graduate workers’ right to unionize

  The University of New Mexico filed a notice of appeal against the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board on Nov. 19, in which they hope to overturn a decision from August that granted UNM graduate students the right to unionize. The United Graduate Workers of UNM are a part of the larger United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and have been fighting for better health care coverage, higher wages and increased influence over University-wide decisions. “Despite long hours teaching, researching and grading, graduate assistants earn an average minimum stipend of just $14,438 per year and struggle with lack of access to medical care and inadequate protections from harassment,” University graduate worker officials wrote in a press release issued on Nov. 23.

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Protesters speak out on injustice of Rittenhouse acquittal

  On Saturday, protesters gathered at the La Jornada statues in Albuquerque to speak out against the Nov. 19 acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. The protest, organized by the Albuquerque Party of Socialism and Liberation and the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice, highlighted the racist precedent set by the acquittal of a man who fatally shot two protesters and injured another. In August 2020, the individuals that Rittenhouse killed and injured were involved in a protest against the racial injustice in the case of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times and partially paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

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